CASH-STRAPPED householders in Swindon will have a chance to cut their rising energy bills – by pooling their buying power against energy providers in a pioneering one-year pilot scheme.
Swindon Council is seeking 5,000 residents to register for a ‘collective switching’ project, where residents can save an average of £150 per year by negotiating a better tariff with gas and energy suppliers.
The council will sign up free-of-charge to a scheme run by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities. Belgian firm, iChoosr, will carry out the negotiations a relay the results to the consumer who then makes a decision whether to switch or not.
Coun Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “The cost of living is one of the most important issues facing local residents, and Swindon Council has now frozen council tax for the third year in a row, and banished the 42 per cent increase in three years of 10 years ago firmly to the past.
“Unfortunately gas and electricity bills always seem to increase with every bill that lands on the doorstep.
“Peterborough, Manchester and other local authorities have all saved their local residents between £60 and £300 off their annual utility bills by using a bulk community switch approach. The idea is simple, any resident can go on to a comparison website like uswitch and search to find a deal from all of the energy suppliers – but if 1,000 households worked together then they have more bargaining power and can get an even better deal.
“Swindon Council is teaming up with Manchester Council to hold a reverse auction in June. Energy suppliers will bid to provide gas and electricity to every interested resident, with the lowest price winning.
“Residents will then be sent the details and they can decide whether to accept the offer or decline and stay with their existing provider. There is no commitment to switch.
“I have set Swindon an ambitious target of saving an average of £150 off the gas and electricity bills of 5,000 households, and I hope residents, community groups and parish councils can get behind and support this campaign so the town can make it a success over the next six months.”
Residents must pay a switching fee, equating to approximately £10 per instance to the council and £30 to the switching company.
Swindon Council has set a budget of £3,000 to cover communications and any setup costs, to be funded from income generated from the switching fee. Any income to the council in excess of £3,000 will be used to combat local fuel poverty.
Coun Mark Dempsey, Labour group deputy leader, said: “It’s a very good idea. It helps families with rising energy prices on the bills they’re paying on a monthly basis and it helps families get the best deal that they can.
“It will be interesting to see the level of support.”
Information on how to sign up will be sent out with council tax bills later this month.